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Secondary scoring steps up

Newly created line of Ullstrom-Nielsen-Bailey seeing early returns on success

Wednesday, 03.7.2012 / 5:25 PM ET / News
By Cory Wright
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Secondary scoring steps up
After the Islanders 5-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators Feb. 26, Jack Capuano was looking to create a spark on offense. His top line was well-represented on the score sheet, but to balance the attack and create a potent second line, Capuano needed to try something new.

The Bailey-Nielsen-Ullstrom line celebrates a goal.
David Ullstrom was called up from Bridgeport, Josh Bailey was moved from center to wing and both were chosen to flank the Isles number two centerman, Frans Nielsen. Four minutes into the line's debut Feb. 28 against Washington, Bailey found the back of the net off a dish from Nielsen.

“They are skill guys,” Capuano said. “Fransie’s got good vision, David’s got some good speed and deceptiveness to his game and they’ve complimented one another right now.”

If nothing else, having three defensively responsible forwards was sure to keep the puck out of the Islanders end. But in their first three games before Sunday’s 1-0 shutout win, the trio was firing offensively on all cylinders, combining for nine points, including four goals from Bailey.

“Josh on the wing has seemed to relax him a little bit more,” Capuano said. “Right now they are using their speed and getting pucks to the net. That’s how they are having success.”

Bailey and Ullstrom found chemistry early in the season during Ullstrom’s first call-up from Nov. 21 - Dec. 20. Bailey had six points (2g/4a) playing with Swedish winger, which accounted for nearly half his point total before his recent three-game streak. Having a skilled playmaker between them to distribute the puck increased the effectiveness of the duo.

“Fransie’s the key,” Bailey said. “His defensive ability matches his offensive ability. He’s so skilled with the puck and so good at making passes and setting up his linemates. I’ve been fortunate to receive a couple of those passes already and look forward to a couple more down the stretch.”

We can all play down low. I think we’ve been strong defensively and that means we have less time in our own end and more time in the offensive zone. That’s probably one of the reasons we’ve created a lot of scoring chances over these games." - Frans Nielsen
While the Islanders are looking for consistent offensive production, the trio subscribes to the notion that protecting your own end is equally as important and that defensive play can go a long way to creating offense. 

“I think we see the game pretty similarly,” Ullstrom said. “We are all offensive-minded, but we don’t mind taking a shift in our own end if necessary. When we get the chance to go, we go and attack them hard. If we lose the puck, we respond.”

Ullstrom played center in his native Sweden and Nielsen noted that with three centers playing on the same line, it doesn’t matter who gets back to the puck first.

“We can all play down low,” Nielsen said. “I think we’ve been strong defensively and that means we have less time in our own end and more time in the offensive zone. That’s probably one of the reasons we’ve created a lot of scoring chances over these games.”

The success of the line shuffling has impacted more than just the second line. Kyle Okposo and Casey Cizikas have found chemistry together, hooking up for the game-winner and only goal Sunday against New Jersey. In four games together, Okposo’s netted two goals and Cizikas was the one who fed him the puck both times.

The Islanders have taken five of a possible eight points in their last four games, including wins over the defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins and division-rival New Jersey Devils. They’ve strung together back-to-back wins for the first time since Jan. 31 and Feb. 3 and it appears that after a few shuffles this season, Capuano finally likes the hands that he’s dealt.

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 PLAYOFFS
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Tavares 7 6 5 2 11
K. Okposo 7 1 6 2 7
F. Nielsen 7 3 2 1 5
B. Nelson 7 1 4 -3 5
R. Strome 5 1 3 4 4
A. Quine 7 1 3 2 4
S. Prince 7 3 0 3 3
R. Pulock 4 1 2 -3 3
T. Hickey 7 1 2 -1 3
N. Leddy 7 0 3 3 3
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
T. Greiss 5 2 0 .941 1.94
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